Ch 6, part 1
"Dark Skies over Palamecia" – a Final Fantasy II retelling
Disclaimer: Square Enix owns Final Fantasy II and all FFII characters featured within. Original characters and interpretations are owned by the co-writers of this fan fiction. There is no profit being made from this story.
CHAPTER SIX BEGINS
After eating, Minwu cleaned out the pot he cooked with and the bowls, too. Cantirena called up water with her magic for him to use, since no water was flowing up the cliff anytime soon. He then packed it all away inside the Item Pouch and brought everyone inside the tent, sealing it from the inside.
The tent was the same one that Cantirena and Minwu had been sharing since they started on this long journey to Minwu's homeland. Their cots were close together as both Clarisse and Candice's were a bit further apart. In the center, between all four cots sat a little lantern, lighting the tent and giving them just enough light to see. Outside, the sun was on its way down, and even though they were exhausted, they weren't really all that ready to sleep yet. Minwu sat on his cot with the book on Palamecian history on his lap, carefully rereading the pages. Candice wasn't really sure what to do, so she tried to lie down. Clarisse pulled out a sharpening stone and took to her sword. She wasn't spending much time on maintaining the sword's quality finish since Tobul remade it for her, and she knew it was good to have it be as sharp as possible. Cantirena yawned loudly, leaning against Minwu, looking over his shoulder at the book he was reading, but too tired to concentrate on the words. She put her hands around Minwu's arm, and while it distracted him momentarily, he let her do it.
Suddenly, there was a loud 'wooooo' sound from outside. It certainly wasn't the wind. It sounded much more like some sort of demented howl. Cantirena's eyes locked onto the flap which led outside, and her grip on Minwu's arm tightened considerably.
"Do not fear," he said, not looking up from his book. "You will hear that all night on these mountains."
"What is it?" Candice asked as she sat up.
"I told you. The creatures around here hunt for humans in the night," Minwu said, not letting his voice increase in volume. "They're like wolves, but much more vicious."
Cantirena tried not to shake. The sounds were getting louder.
"They will not smell you. This tent is made of a fabric that keeps our smells inside. I'm sure when we were still in the marshlands, you did not smell the incense I had burning in here," Minwu said, trying to concentrate on the book. "I made the foolish mistake of wanting to flee when I heard it my first time, as you are no doubt considering now." He lifted the bottom part of his robe, pointing at his left ankle. "It almost took my foot."
Clarisse put the sharpening stone down and looked at Minwu's leg. The scar went all the way around his ankle, looking like old, jagged claw marks. Parts of them stuck out more than others. "It's a miracle you still have your foot."
"Exactly," Minwu replied. "So you'd best do as I tell you."
Candice lifted her sleeve, showing off her arm. "If you wanna talk about scars," she said. "I got this one because I got in a fight with a dragon."
"…what were you doing, fighting with a dragon?" Clarisse asked in disbelief.
"I thought I was right," she continued, looking at the scar. "It kept going on and on about how my dad was an insult to creatures who could fly naturally, so I picked up a piece of a broken propeller and chased after it. Everyone tried to stop me from doing it. They didn't understand. That dragon was flat out insulting him, and then insulted me. And what's worse? They never believed me! I got really pissed off and tried to kill the thing."
Minwu found this story to be very strange. Candice could understand dragons? The only people who could understand dragons lived in Deist and wore special pendants that allowed them to understand the meaning of the ancient Draconic language. He looked up from the book to see that Candice was indeed wearing a beautiful sapphire pendant that always gave off a little shine no matter how little light there was.
"Excuse me," Minwu said. "Your pendant. Where did you get it?"
Candice smiled. "This was a gift from a boy I met that same day. He was so cute. We played outside near Deist castle together while our fathers were having a discussion. The dragon actually belonged to his father. He never told me where it came from or who made it. Oh did I get in a lot of trouble." She looked down at it. "The boy had the same color eyes as this pendant. His hair was brownish-blonde, hung around his shoulders. I'll never forget him or that day. I thought it was the most precious gift anyone ever gave me, so I've never taken it off."
"That sounds like the story of a long lost love," Cantirena said gently. She had this very dreamy expression on her face, but it vanished after a little while. Her fairy tale turned out to be something of a nightmare, and saying that only reminded her of it.
"I bet one day you are destined to meet again," Clarisse said, "Because you're tied together by that pendant."
The boy was a Dragoon in training, Minwu thought. Blonde hair and blue eyes are very much the typical features of those who are born in Deist. He gave her a Draconic pendant! That's… certainly foreboding.
"Fairy tale romance or not," Minwu said. "Take good care of that pendant. I sense power within it. Power that we may very well need."
"Whoa, really?" Candice asked. "That's neat. I've never thought much of it, but… I've always felt safer with it on. I hope that one day, I'll be able to see Ricard again. He certainly was a charmer."
When the sounds outside continued to grow louder, Minwu put his book away and blew out the fire within the lantern, leaving the tent in complete darkness. The group could see that there was a full moon out that night through the cloth of the tent. He looked up at that moon. It was a full moon the last time he had to deal with those malicious creatures, too.
"You're dumber than you look if you think you can outrun those things."
"It's better than waiting here to be eaten alive, teacher! I'm going back to civilization, I can't take this stupid Mysidian quest of yours anymore!"
"Minwu, you fool!"
At one point in time, he was a very stupid kid who knew nothing of the world. He was lucky that the student he decided to pass his lessons onto was a gentle person with the sense to listen to his wisdom, even if she was too attached for her own good. He could feel her heartbeat, and as the howls continued, the faster it went. She was legitimately scared.
That's when they saw a massive shadow against the side of the tent, in the shape of a wolf on its hind legs, sniffing the outside of the tent. The shadow was against the natural pale moonlight, making it impossible not to see clearly. The moment Cantirena was about to gasp in horror, Minwu cupped his hand over her mouth to keep her from making any sound. The creature knew humans were here, and even if they were unable to be smelled through the tent, they would be able to hear any sound. If they decided to take to the tent with their claws, well, there wouldn't be enough time or space to save all three girls. Minwu prayed silently that this would not be the case.
Clarisse leaned in to where Cantirena and Minwu were, trying to be as silent as possible. While Cantirena was against Minwu, she hugged around her little sister, who was all ready shaking.
Candice crept under her blanket. She pulled it over her head and sat there. She was afraid, but there was nothing she could do about it. She wanted to scream, she wanted to cry for her daddy's comfort, she wanted to be as far away from here as possible. Why did she come on this adventure? Wouldn't it be much safer going with her father to Deist?
The wolf circled the tent, sniffing repeatedly. It didn't leave until about twenty minutes later, and even then no one wanted to move from where they were.
"…and you're saying that those… those things… are all through these mountains?" Clarisse asked much later. "Are you trying to get us killed?!"
"Shut up or it might come back again," Candice said, still hiding under her blanket. "I don't think it wants to make friends, either."
"Minwu…" Cantirena whispered, hugging around him, "Why is it so… difficult… to get to Mysidia anyway?!"
Minwu felt very put on the spot there, and he didn't like that at all. All three of them didn't like this idea, and quite frankly, he didn't either. He didn't want to go back, but there was no other way. The only place he could form a crystal would be in the most holy land in the world, and what other place was there other than the Holy Mecca itself? He wanted to shatter the Stone of Iliua, which just happened to be the stone that was creating this entire war in the first place. Everyone all ready knew why they were going to Mysidia. He wasn't going to explain it all again. He didn't have the time or the patience for that. Minwu was frustrated. He knew what he had to do, no matter what the cost. He was going to stop this war, he was going to save the lady he loved, and he was going to do it by going to Mysidia.
"It's difficult to get to Mysidia to test the possible mages. All who enter the city itself have proven themselves worthy of taking the test to enter the Circle of Mages," he said, answering his student's inquiry. "If a mage were to die, then they're automatically disqualified."
"You're saying this whole thing is just a testing ground? For… applicants who wish to join some stupid secret society within Mysidia?" Candice asked. "Of all the fucked up tests they made me take in school, this is the worst I've ever heard of. Canti, dear, are you sure you still want to do this? You can back out at any point, you know."
"I don't want to go back to Altair," Cantirena said. "I want to prove I'm worthy of being my teacher's student. So no matter what happens, I have to stick with it. Even when it gets… scary. I have to be able to defend myself against anything. If the Emperor's going to come after me again, I wanna show him myself that… that… that I don't want to assist him in his world takeover. World peace doesn't mean just take it all for yourself!"
"Such unwavering determination…" Clarisse pointed out. "Don't be offended, Candice. She's always been like that. She looks scared, and she looks weak, but don't let that fool you. Cantirena's actually stronger than most people in the world."
Cantirena smiled. "I'm not stronger than anyone," she said passively. "But… I have to go to Mysidia and see it for myself. I've grown up hearing about it, and I really want to be a part of it. With you, my teacher, Lord Minwu." She reached up and poked him on the nose. "If anything gives me strength… it would be my desire to show you… that you're not a failure like you say you are, teacher."
"You could have been an alchemist's apprentice, you know," Candice said. "Stay safe at home and make medicines? Sounds better than anything that Circle of Mages gig would put you through."
"Truthfully, I don't want to be a part of the Circle of Mages," Cantirena said. Minwu was a little confused, but no one could see his expression in the darkness. "Because I don't want to swear any vows that would take away my freedom. It's the same as joining up with the Emperor, you know. He wants to take things away from people. No. I don't think that's the right way to go about this life."
Minwu hugged her tighter than he was.
You are much stronger than I, my student. I used the Circle of Mages as a way to escape my abusive teacher, and because of that, I gave up my right to live the way I wish to… he thought peacefully. It is because of this determination that I…
"Yes, my student?"
"Why is your heart beating so fast? Is there another one of those wolves around?"
"No, no. My thoughts have run rampant, and I… forgive me for frightening you."
I must see everything through to the end.